Colts WR T.Y. Hilton set for return against Buffalo
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Don’t look now, but the Indianapolis Colts’ offense is getting healthy.
T.Y. Hilton was a full participant in Friday’s practice as he continued his comeback from chest and hamstring injuries, making the third straight day he went through workouts with a setback. The team’s four-time Pro Bowler has missed the last two games, but that streak is over.
Somewhat surprisingly, Hilton isn’t listed as questionable on Friday’s injury report. That means he’s good to go.
“We feel pretty positive,’’ Frank Reich said of Hilton’s status for Sunday’s meeting with Buffalo in Lucas Oil Stadium. “We’re thinking good thoughts.
“We’re still going to be cautious and see how he responds to practice today, but we’re thinking there’s a good chance.’’
Thursday, Hilton was pleased with his progress. He was limited that day in practice after being a full participant Wednesday.
“As long as I’m feeling good, I’ll keep doing it,’’ he said. “There’s no need to rush it. We don’t play till Sunday, so I’ll go out there, get a little conditioning in, see where I’m at.
“With a hamstring, it’s always tricky because you might feel good, and then you’re not really good, so you might want to take another week. I feel good.’’
Hilton seemed to make his plans clear following Wednesday’s work.
“It’s a must-win game, so I’ve got to be out there,’’ he said. “I know they need me.’’
Reich doesn’t downplay Hilton’s value to the offense. Despite missing two games he ranks second on the team with 294 yards and fifth with 21 receptions.
“He’s our No. 1 receiver,’’ he said, “so if he plays, that’s a good thing. When he steps on the field you’ve just got confidence in him, that he’s going to get open.
“Probably most importantly, Andrew just has to much confidence in him and just feels like it’s going to be a completion every time he throws it to him.’’
Sunday marks the first time this season the Colts will have four of their offensive cornerstones on the field at the same time: Andrew Luck, Hilton, Marlon Mack and Anthony Castonzo.
Five players have been ruled out: tight end Jack Doyle (hip), defensive lineman Denico Autry (hamstring), running back Robert Turbin (shoulder), wide receiver Ryan Grant (ankle) and safety Clayton Geathers (neck/concussion).
In a bottom-line business, Malik Hooker keeps adding to his bottom line. The 2017 first-round draft pick came up with his first interception of the season in Sunday’s loss to the New York Jets and ranks sixth on the team with 26 tackles, 18 of them solos. He’s also defended a pair of passes.
“Yeah, I’m definitely getting better each week,’’ he said. “I’m making plays. The more plays I make says it all.
“I’m getting better.’’
And just think, it’s been less than a year since Hooker underwent surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee; the MCL also was damaged. He suffered the injury Oct. 22 against Jacksonville and had the procedure Nov. 11.
“Still not a year out,’’ he said.
Is his comeback complete?
“I really don’t pay attention to that,’’ Hooker said. “I just try to go off my play. Am I improving each weekend? How am I moving? Things like that.
“As of right now, I feel like I’m pretty healthy.’’
Hooker produced three interceptions in his first seven games as a rookie before suffering the season-ending injury against the Jaguars. It took him six games to notch his first this season.
“I was thinking, ‘Just do your job,’’’ he said. “People get thirsty and want to go out there and try to make all these plays. That’s just bad ball.
“It was just keep doing my job and the plays will come. If the play is there and I didn’t make it, I just didn’t make it. It doesn’t have anything to do with m ACL.
Coordinator Matt Eberflus agreed.
“He’s working to know the system and know the angles,’’ he said. “You know when you are playing the deep part of the field a lot of that is angles. Know where you are at in terms of playing either center field or half or quarters or whatever that might be. I think he’s doing a good job with that.
“He’s going to continue to make more plays like he made last weekend. And I think he’s going to continue to develop. He is one heck of a talent.’’